Auckland, in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest urban area in New Zealand. It is a conurbation, made up of the administrative cities of Auckland City, Waitakere, Manukau and North Shore. In Māori it bears the name Tāmaki Makau Rau or Ākarana.
At 37 degrees south latitude, the Auckland urban area lies between the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean to the east, the low Hunua Ranges to the south-east, the Manukau Harbour to the south-west, and the Waitakere Ranges and smaller ranges to the west and north-west. The central part of the urban area occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau and Waitemata harbours.
The Māori settlers
The first population believed to having settled the region of Auckland, was the Māori people, around 1350. The region was in high demand, because of her rich and fertile land. On the volcanoes around Auckland, especially at Mount Eden and One Tree Hill, the Māori settled and made fortifications, still visible today. A settlement is called a Pa.
The birth of Auckland
After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840 the new Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson, had the task of choosing a capital for the colony. At the time Kororareka, now called Old Russell, in the Bay of Islands, served as the effective capital. However, Kororareka's geographical position made it very remote, inaccessible and off-centre from the rest of the New Zealand archipelago, and the town had a notorious reputation for drunkenness and immorality.
1888 German map of Auckland
Even in 1840 Port Nicholson (now called Wellington) probably seemed the obvious choice for an administrative capital. Centrally situated at the south of the North Island, close to the South Island, and growing fast, it had a lot to commend it. But the New Zealand Company and the Wakefield brothers had founded and continued to dominate Port Nicholson. Furthermore, it already had a bad reputation with the Māori for unscrupulous or even illegal occupation of land.
On the initial recommendation of the missionary Henry Williams, supported by the Surveyor General, Felton Mathew , Hobson selected the south side of the Waitemata Harbour as his future capital. The Chief Magistrate, Captain William Cornwallis Symonds, soon purchased the necessary land from the Ngati Whatua owners, and a foundation ceremony took place at 1pm on 18 September 1840, probably on the higher ground at the top end of present-day Queen Street. Hobson named the new settlement in honour of George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, a patron and friend of his. The New Zealand Government Gazette announced the royal approval of the name on 26 November 1842.
From the outset a steady flow of new arrivals from within New Zealand and from overseas came to the new capital. Initially settlers from New South Wales predominated, but the first immigrant ships sailing directly from Britain started to arrive as early as 1842. From early times the eastern side of the settlement remained reserved for government officials while mechanics and artisans, the so-called "unofficial" settlers, congregated on the western side. This social division still persists in modern Auckland (-- note the suburb name of Mechanics Bay, and compare Westie).
Loss of capital status
Eventually Port Nicholson became the capital and, now known as Wellington, remains so today. The advantages of a central position became even more obvious as the South Island grew in prosperity with the discovery of gold in Otago, and with the development of sheepfarming and refrigeration.
Parliament met for the first time in Wellington in 1862. In 1868 the Government House moved there too.
The power crisis
At the beginning of 1998, the downtown area of Auckland received electricity from the supplier Mercury Energy via only four power cables, two of them 40-year old gas-filled cables past their replacement date. One of the cables failed on 20 January, possibly due to the unusually hot and dry conditions, another on 9 February, and due to the increased load from the failure of the first cables, the remaining two failed on 19 and 20 February, leaving the central business district without power.
Queen Street was almost deserted for the first few days, as few businesses could operate. Some brought goods out onto the street to sell, but heavy rain in the first week made that impractical. Generators were brought in from throughout the country to power essential services and some businesses. These made Queen Street a very noisy place and thus deterred customers. Businesses estimated that the outage cost them at least NZD 60 000 per week.
It took five weeks before an emergency cable was completed to restore power. For much of that time, about 60 000 of the 74 000 people who worked in the area in 1998 worked from home, or from relocated offices in the suburbs. Some businesses relocated staff to other New Zealand cities, or even to Australia. Most of the 6000 apartment dwellers in the area had to find alternative accommodation.
Geography and climate
Auckland straddles the volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field. The 50 volcanic vents in the field take the form of cones, lakes, lagoons, islands and depressions. Some of the cones have been partly or completely quarried away. The volcanoes are all individually extinct although the volcanic field itself is merely dormant. The most recent and by far the largest volcano, Rangitoto Island, formed within the last 1000 years. Its size, its symmetry, its position guarding the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour and its visibility from many parts of the Auckland region make it Auckland's most iconic natural feature. Rangitoto is eerily quiet as almost no birds and insects have settled on the island because of the rich acidic soil and type of flora that has adapted to grow out of the black broken rocky soil.
Isthmus and harbours
Auckland lies on and around an isthmus, less than two kilometres wide at its narrowest point between Mangere Inlet and Tamaki River. There are two harbours in the Auckland urban area surrounding this isthmus, namely Waitemata Harbour to the north, which opens east to the Hauraki Gulf, and Manukau Harbour to the south, which opens west to the Tasman Sea. These two harbours separate the city council areas.
Bridges span both of these rivers, the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitemata Harbour and the Mangere Bridge on the Manukau Harbour.
Auckland has a warm-temperate climate, with warm summers and slightly cooler but lengthy winters. January temperatures average 21-24 °C (February and March are typically warmer than January, however), and July temperatures average 14-16 °C. High levels of rainfall occur almost year-round (over 1000mm per year), especially in winter. Climatic conditions vary in different parts of the city owing to geography such as hills, trees and ocean wind currents.
Auckland city serves as a home to many cultures. The majority of inhabitants (roughly 60%) claim European — predominantly British — descent, but substantial Maori and Pacific Island communities exist as well. Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. Comparably-sized communities of people of East Asian origin also live in Auckland, due to New Zealand's world-leading level of immigration, which primarily flows into Auckland. Ethnic groups from all corners of the world have a presence in Auckland, making it by far the country's most cosmopolitan city.
The term Jafa serves as a (mostly) joking term of abuse referring to Aucklanders. Aucklanders and other New Zealanders have a mostly light-hearted "love-hate" relationship. Stereotypically, Aucklanders view parts of the country "south of the Bombay Hills" as provincial and unsophisticated, while the rest of the country sees Aucklanders as brash and arrogant. Carlos Spencer, a famous rugby player, is seen to epitomise this stereotype despite the fact that he originates from Horowhenua, just north of Wellington. Another perception of Aucklanders is that they are rich latte-sipping yuppies, with trendy but impractical political views. West Coasters hold a particular grudge against Auckland politicians for placing environmental concerns above the economic development of their region.
The Bombay Hills form the Auckland Region's southern boundary, over which State Highway 1 runs south out of Auckland to the Waikato region. The phrase "New Zealand stops at the Bombay Hills", is ironically thus used on both sides of the range.
Like the rest of the country, more than half of Aucklanders are nominally Christian, but less than 10% regularly attend church. Inherited Christian festivals remain a valued part of the holiday calendar. Polynesian residents are noticeably more regular churchgoers than other Aucklanders. Other immigrant cultures have added to the religious diversity of the city, with traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. There is also a small, long-established Jewish community. Some pundits assert (with little irony) that rugby is the most popular religion in New Zealand.
Attractive aspects of Auckland life are its mild climate, plentiful employment and educational opportunities, and numerous leisure facilities. For quality of life, Auckland currently ranks 8th equal in a survey of the world's top 55 cities. (Link: Mercer Consulting quality of life survey)
Auckland is popularly known as the "city of sails", because the harbour is usually dotted with hundreds of yachts. The recently refurbished Viaduct Basin hosted two America's Cup challenges, and its cafes, restaurants, and clubs add to Auckland's vibrant nightlife. High Street, Queen Street, Ponsonby Road, and Karangahape Road are also very popular with urban socialites. Newmarket and Parnell are upmarket shopping centres. Otara's famous fleamarket and Victoria Park Market are a colourful alternative shopping experience.
Auckland's harbour has popular beaches at Mission Bay, Devonport, Takapuna, Long Bay, and Maraetai. Pleasant ferry trips go to Devonport, Waiheke Island, and Rangitoto Island. The west coast has good surf spots at Piha and Muriwai. Pleasant picnic spots may be found at Auckland Domain, Albert Park, One Tree Hill Domain, and Western Springs. Auckland has its fair share of rugby and cricket grounds (notably Eden Park), and venues for motorsports, tennis, badminton, swimming, soccer, rugby league, and many other sports.
Every year in March, an 8.4 kilometre (5.2 mile) fun-run known as "Round the Bays" starts in the city and goes along the waterfront to the suburb of St Heliers . It attracts many tens of thousands of people and has been an annual event since 1972.
The Auckland Town Hall and Aotea Centre host conferences and cultural events such as theatre, kapa haka, and opera. Many national treasures are displayed at the Auckland Art Gallery (such as the work of Colin McCahon ). Other significant cultural artefacts reside at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Maritime Museum, and the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). Exotic creatures can be observed at the Auckland Zoo and Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World. Movies and rock concerts (notably, the "Big Day Out") are also well patronised.
Every business day, the professional workforce commutes from all points of the city, to the Central Business District in downtown Auckland. Most major international corporations have an Auckland office. The most expensive office space is around lower Queen Street and the Viaduct Basin. A large proportion of the technical and trades workforce is based in the industrial zones of South Auckland.
The Quarter Acre bungalow remains the most common residence of Aucklanders, with the resulting large urban sprawl and reliance on motor vehicles. The regional council is trying to curb this trend, with housing density strategies such as more townhouses and apartments, and prohibiting subdivision of properties on the city fringes.
Auckland has a significant traffic congestion problem. A motorway network, planned decades ago, remains incomplete as of 2004. In the early 2000s several motorway construction projects commenced in and around the central motorway junction ("Spaghetti Junction").
In July 2003 the Britomart Transport Centre opened in central Auckland. It provides a central interconnection point for buses, trains and ferries. During its planning period it had provoked much controversy spanning multiple mayoral terms.
During the 2001-2004 term the mayors of Auckland City and Manukau City, John Banks and Barry Curtis respectively, strongly advocated a proposal for an Eastern Transport Corridor, essentially a new motorway. Vociferous campaigners both supported and opposed the NZ$4 billion proposal (see external links below for related sites) throughout the term. John Banks subsequently lost the 2004 local body elections, chiefly due to public opposition to the proposed motorway. The newly-elected Auckland City Council has a clear centre-left majority, and new Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker announced in early November 2004 a major change in direction for Auckland City.
Bus services provide the bulk of public transport, with the run-down commuter trains offering a limited service. Plans for light rail, mooted over the years, seem unlikely to proceed. The local government elections in September 2004 centred largely around candidates' policies on public transport, with the incumbent Auckland City mayor John Banks promoting the "Eastern Corridor" motorway plan, and his main rivals (former Auckland City mayor Christine Fletcher and businessman Dick Hubbard – the eventual winner) supporting public transport alternatives like light rail and improving existing bus and rail services.
Auckland City Council has prepared plans for a subway (underground railway) connecting the new Britomart Transport Centre to the Western Railway Line. However it is doubtful whether the plans will proceed.
Auckland International Airport, New Zealand's largest airport, lies beside the Manukau Harbour, in the southern suburb of Mangere, which is part of Manukau. Ongoing negotiations concern the development of a second airport at Whenuapai, a disused military airbase in Waitakere, to the northwest of the Auckland conurbation. Many private flights use the smaller airfield at Ardmore, south of the city but within the Auckland region.
A feature of Auckland transport is the popularity of commuting by ferry. North Shore residents avoid the chronic Harbour Bridge congestion by catching ferries from Devonport, Bayswater or Stanley Bay to the Auckland CBD. Ferries also connect the city with Rangitoto and Waiheke Islands, and with Half Moon Bay.
Landmarks and places
Panoramic view over Auckland from Mount Eden